What To Do in Richmond, VA - Part One
Whether you are coming for business, a weekend, or a vacation, you will be wondering what to do in Richmond, VA. No worries. There are more than enough fun, free, fascinating, and factual things to keep you entertained and happy. So, pack that bag, jump in the car, board a train, or book a flight, and come to the capital of the Old Dominion.
Every state has a capital city and a capitol building. What makes this area of the Court End Neighborhood an essential tourist stop, when it comes to ‘What To Do in Richmond, VA,’ is its unique place in history. You will find that many of the roots of our country originated here. Follow in the footsteps of these Virginians, who all served as President of The United States: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe - all ‘Founding Fathers’ of our country.
Before we begin discovering what to do in Richmond, VA, let’s talk about some of its history. After the settlement at Jamestown, VA was established, in 1607, exploration of the James River began. In 1609 and 1610, attempts were made to establish colonies up river, but neither of these were successful. When John Rolfe began producing a better tobacco crop in Henricus, that encouraged others to want to move northwest. When Fort Charles was built, in 1645, it offered protection, so many settlers moved to the new area. While William Byrd II named the new town, after a community in England, it was Major William Mayo, who designed the layout of the town, in 1737. And in 1742, it was incorporated. And it has served as the capital of Virginia since the capital was moved from Williamsburg, in April 1780. So, get your camera ready, and let’s discover what there is to do in Richmond, VA.
What To Do in Richmond, VA - Capitol Square - First Destination
I suggest making Capitol Square your first stop. This area is included in the neighborhood called Court End. Within this park like square, you will find the State Capitol, the Governor’s Mansion, Bell Tower, statues of many prominent Virginians, and the latest addition, the Civil Rights Memorial, added in 2008. Take time to stroll around the grounds, and enjoy sitting on one of the many park benches. Contemplate where you are, and think of the many ‘Founding Fathers’ of our country, who have strolled these grounds, maybe sat under the shade of one of the trees, and formed an idea to help establish the foundation of our country.
What To Do in Richmond, VA - Virginia State Capitol - Second Destination
“Your Capitol Building Tour has taken you through the second oldest statehouse in the country, which is still in continuous use today. And it is home to the Virginia General Assembly, the oldest Legislative body in the country. Think about all the prominent founders and leaders of the United States who have walked through these hallowed halls.”
Quote courtesy of: (www.infobarrel.com/Virginia_Capitol_Building_Tour_in_Richmond)
Thomas Jefferson designed the State Capitol in 1785, while he served as Minister to France. The design is based on the ancient Roman temple, Maison Carree, in the southern part of France. You will find that there is much to see and learn about this National Historic Landmark. One of my favorites is the world-renowned, life-size statue of President George Washington, in the Rotunda. Another is the life-size statue of General Robert E. Lee, placed just where he stood, in the Old House Chamber, when he accepted Command of the Armies of Virginia. Other favorites are, the House of Delegates mace and the paintings in the Old Senate Chamber, just to name a few.
The entrance to the State Capitol is between 9th and 10th Streets, on Bank Street. There are two ways to see the Capitol, a self-guided tour, or take one of the Capitol Building Tours. Admission and tours are free. A guided tour takes approximately one hour, but allow yourself some extra time to go back and revisit some of the historical treasures that were pointed out on your tour. While the building opens at 8:00 am, and closes at 5:00 pm, Monday through Saturday, tours don’t begin until 9:00 am, and the last tour starts at 4:00 pm. Sunday hours are 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm, with the first tour beginning at 1:00 pm, and the last tour beginning at 4:00 pm. Tours can be arranged by just walking into the lobby, or you can call ahead of time to reserve a special date and time. It is best to call ahead of time to make sure you and/or your group can be accommodated. Call (804-698-1788) to reserve a time. For all the latest information on visiting the State Capitol, visit their website (www.virginiacapitol.gov/visitors.php?p=taking_tour). The tour guides are pleasant, knowledgeable, and add greatly to the overall experience.
What To Do in Richmond, VA - Virginia Governorâ€™s Mansion - Third Destination
“Virginia’s Executive Mansion has been home, office and center of official entertaining for governors and their families since 1813. It was the second governor’s residence constructed in the nation, and is today the oldest governor’s residence still used for its original purpose.” Quote courtesy of: (www.executivemansion.virginia.gov/History)
Guided tours of the Governor’s Mansion take approximately 25 minutes, and you will enjoy every minute of this tour. You will learn about the history of the house, its furnishings, and the families who have occupied this beautiful home, which is listed as a National Historic Landmark. These tours are free, but there is a limited tour schedule: 10:00 am to 12:00 pm and 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Occasionally, tours must be cancelled due to other functions. If your group includes 10 people or more, you can make a reservation for your tour. Contact information for scheduling a tour is phone (804-371-8687) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
What To Do in Richmond, VA - Bell Tower - Fourth Destination
“Standing in the southwest corner of the square is the brick Bell Tower. It was completed in 1825 for use by the Virginia Public Guard, a military predecessor to the present-day Virginia Capitol Police. The Bell Tower still tolls its bell each day to call the General Assembly into session. The Virginia Tourism Corporation maintains a public visitor center on the tower's first floor.”
Quote courtesy of: (www.virginiacapitol.gov/index.php?p=capitol_square)
Before leaving Capitol Square, stop by the Visitor Center in Bell Tower, and talk to a representative who will help you with even more suggestions on what to do in Richmond, VA. While there, pick up brochures and maps of other places you would like to visit in the Old Dominion. Before leaving, have them mark on a map my next suggested, what to do in Richmond, VA, stop, that is just across the street.
What To Do in Richmond, VA - St. Paulâ€™s Episcopal Church - Fifth Destination
“With the selection of Richmond as the capital of the Confederacy in 1861, St. Paul's would become forever identified with the Civil War. General Robert E. Lee and his wife were lent a pew and attended services at St. Paul's whenever possible throughout the war. In 1862, Confederate President Jefferson Davis was confirmed as a member of the parish.” Quote courtesy of: (www.stpauls-episcopal.org/index.php/who/history_architecture)
If you leave Capitol Square by the Grace Street gate, you will see St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on the corner. St. Paul’s was dedicated in 1845, and has been a part of the Old Dominion’s history since then. Not to be missed, are the gorgeous stained glass windows, some of which are from Tiffany Studios, as well as other distinguished artists. There are brochures available in the vestibule to help you explore this beautiful church. Or, if you prefer, you can take a guided tour of the church after the Sunday 11:15 am service. This tour is free. Arrangements can be made for group tours, during the week, by calling (804-643-3589).
I hope you enjoyed your first ‘What To Do in Richmond, VA’ adventure - exploring Capitol Square. Walking through these halls, visiting these rooms, and imagining all the great leaders, our ‘Founding Fathers,’ having done the same, in years past, is awesome! While I have visited these historical landmarks many times over the years, I still stand in awe, when I stand before the life-size statue of President George Washington.
Look for the next ‘What To Do in Richmond, VA - Part Two.’ In the next article, what to do in Richmond, VA, we will be going to another area of Court End, which is located on the other side (northeast) of Broad Street. There, we will visit The Museum of the Confederacy, The White House of the Confederacy, and many more historical sites. Come along with me, and let’s see what else there is to do in Richmond, VA.
Virginia State Capitol (www.virginiacapitol.gov)
Virginia Governor’s Mansion (www.executivemansion.virginia.gov)
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (http://www.stpauls-episcopal.org)